Monthly Archives: February 2020

Sue Meades & Colin Shearer – Cheese Aboard inc Mugs Afloat

Sue & Colin - Cheese Aboard inc Mugs Afloat

Sue Meades & Colin Shearer are entering their 4th year as Roving Canal Traders on their narrowboat

That’s D’riculous.

mugs afloatWe have travelled the Leeds & Liverpool canal, the Shropshire Union, The Staffs & Worcs, The River Severn, The Trent & Mersey, the River Soar, the Grand Union, the Ashby Canal, the Coventry canal & some of the Oxford Canal during the time we have been traders.

We started off selling personalised mugs & mugs printed with our own bespoke designs along with up cycled jewellery.  Gradually we added some wooden goods as Colin started to learn how to do Pyrography.

It soon transpired that Colin's love of Celtic designs was going to be a good seller for us at festivals & markets.

mugs & chopping boardsThis developed into the range of beautiful chopping boards that we currently sell alongside our mugs. We have made many personalised mugs for customers at events & also boaters especially other traders who seem to want mugs with their own logo on.   

After only a few months of trading we joined the RCTA (Roving Canal Traders Association) as they seemed to be a helpful organisation, little did I know that 3 years later I would be a committee member & responsible for organising floating market events for other traders in the Association! Who are currently organising approximately 16 events for their members over the 2020 season.   

We love trading at festivals & floating markets, the atmosphere is wonderful & the camaraderie of the trading community is amazing.  This has been a fabulous journey as I have met many very talented traders, attended & organised lots of events.  

For the past 3 winters we have worked as self employed operators for to boost our income when it is too cold & wet to trade from the boat, they welcome traders as operators & have units all over the country if you need extra winter income.  

We were trying to think of a way of streamlining our stock & the items we sell at the end of last season when we heard that the Cheese Boat that covered the Shropshire area had retired from canal trading. 

With a lot of deliberation, we decided this was a perfect addition to our existing wares. 

Coffee mugs, wine racks, cheese/pizza boards what a perfect combination to add actual cheese to! Hence the birth of Cheese Aboard our new trading name. For the near future we will be Cheese Aboard inc. Mugs Afloat 

We have sourced a fabulous chiller, found a supplier that suits our trading ideas, achieved our 5 star food rating & made the long overdue rain canopy so we are set for the 2020 trading season to start. 

You can find us on Facebook where you will find our trading schedule for the season. 

Sue Meades & Colin Shearer

Sue Meades & Colin Shearer

Sue Meades and Colin Shearer have been Roving Canal Traders for the last three years, and have become very well known on the cut on their narrowboat D'riculous. Sue also volunteers with the RCTA.

You can like and follow them on Facebook: or

caledonia glass – illia price

roving canal traders

illia price - caledonia glass

Illia Price - Caledonia Glass

I've lived aboard my beloved narrowboat since August 2014. Previously I was buying, renovating and selling on houses in order to own my own outright. I also worked on major renovation projects for other people, mostly as part of a team. I'd lived in Scotland (various parts) for 30 years before moving to the Midlands in 2012. In my time I've also been a Signmaker, a plasterer and a groom (horses) as well as doing several more menial jobs to earn a crust.

My main source of income is my industrial engraving business which I started in 1986 with a small bank loan and a second hand manual engraving machine. I specialise in producing botanical garden labels and am a well known supplier in horticultural circles. My labels are used in many major UK horticultural institutions. I also send them overseas, from Jersey to Japan. These days I have modern computer driven engraving tables and associated equipment, all housed in a cosy garden office.


I got the idea to live on a boat when I saw one for sale whilst walking along the towpath around Alvechurch.

After much research I discovered the rules and regulations would allow me to live aboard as a continuous cruiser.

While I was finishing my last house I read everything I could find about narrowboating method and etiquette.

When I was ready to buy I searched online.

My boat was the only one I actually went to see, being the right size, with cruiser stern, within budget and in need of refitting which I wanted to do to my taste. And I liked the look of her.

The boat was at Aldermaston and I needed to get her back to Alvechurch ASAP to get on with the ever mounting engraving orders.

I'd only briefly steered a narrowboat before so I booked a one to one helmsman's course for the first day of my single handed journey.

It gave me the confidence to tackle the 130 miles of river and canals and as many locks without any major mistakes. It took me 12 days, with two lost to breakdowns.

life changing experience

It was one of those life changing experiences and I loved most minutes of it!

Since then I've refitted the interior. Put in new windows etc. Had a new engine and back decks fitted last winter. This winter it's overplating after which Caledonia will probably outlive me. She was built in 1974, a 48' Fernie (very similar to a Harborough Marine but with a steel top)

I cruise many miles and commute to work during the milder months. Over the winter I cruise, take a mooring in the Midlands, or have the boat out of the water for Winter Works.

caledonia glass is born

I've always been keen on crafts and love glass in all its forms.

I decided to have a go at decorating with lead and glass paint a few years ago for Christmas presents for the family and got hooked!

Soon my boat was full of it so I applied for a trading licence which was granted. To my surprise others liked and bought it. It's now become my spare time passion, seeking out interesting items to decorate and planning what design to use. Most of my designs are inspired by nature.

Since I became a canal trader I've been welcomed by other floating traders and made some fantastic friends. I feel it's important not to copy something another boater does and I'm confident I have a unique product.

I sell as much as I can make in my spare time, attending some of the wonderful canal festivals and floating markets during the spring and summer months and at land based craft fairs in the run up to Christmas.

I also like to go to a Christmas floating market if I can. The atmosphere is generally great.

I don't sell online or post glass out as I just don't have the time (or will) to administer it.

I like to cruise in a different direction each year if possible, though the Midwest is a firm favourite so far (Shroppie, Llangollen, Trent &Mersey, Macclesfield, Peak Forest, River Weaver and the delightful Bugsworth Basin).

I'd like to get much further afield eventually...


Illia Price, trading as Caledonia Glass, has been a member of Roving Canal Traders since she began her canal business. She creates beautiful works of art using lead and glass paint, and it's a great testament to her skill as a boat designer (and her boat handling skills!) that she can carry so much glass aboard a narrowboat without breaking any of it!

Follow Caledonia Glass on Facebook to find out where she is trading. Illia will only sell from the towpath or land based craft fairs; she is unable to accept online orders or post items out.


Otters spotted in the heart of Birmingham spark largest-ever survey

The largest-ever survey of the otter population in the West Midlands is being carried out by waterways and well-being charity Canal & River Trust, after sightings of the protected animals in the heart of Birmingham.

The survey will establish where otters, once hunted to the brink of extinction, have been making a surprising come-back.  Initial research suggests that the animals are making use of the region’s canals for the first time since the man-made waterways were built in the industrial revolution.

Since the 1950s the number of otters on Britain’s rivers have been in decline due to a combination of habitat loss, persecution and the use of pesticides.  Over recent years otter numbers have been making a comeback due to better water quality and efforts to improve their habitats.  There is now evidence of otter territories being found in the heart of Birmingham, in the canal near to Brindleyplace.

The Canal & River Trust is calling on local people to get involved in the survey which is taking place on the 22nd and 23rd February, and will involve walking a stretch of towpath looking for signs of otters – specifically otter droppings, known as spraint, and ‘latrines’ – areas where the animals mark their territory.  Otters have large territories, so spraints will be sent off for DNA analysis to identify the otter, including if it is male or female.

Tom Wilding, environmental scientist for the Canal & River Trust, said: “Our previous survey helped us identify a number of otters living across the West Midlands region using our canals. This year we are hoping to find that these otters are still here and that we have even more living along and using our waterways.

The fact that we’re even talking about the possibility of otters on the West Midlands’ formerly industrial canals is incredible and a real testament to all the hard work that’s gone in to improving water quality in the region.  It’s amazing that they’re now clean enough to sustain otter populations for the first time since the Industrial Revolution.  Today these canals are vital green corridors which provide countless habitats for wildlife as well as giving local people beautiful spaces green spaces right in the heart of city centre.

No experience is required as a short training session will be given.  Anyone interested in helping out with the survey can register their interest by emailing

To find out more about the work of the Canal & River Trust, including how you can support through volunteering or making a donation, go to

otters spotted in the heart of birmingham

The largest-ever survey of the otter population in the West Midlands is being carried out by waterways and well-being charity Canal & River Trust, after sightings of the protected animals in the heart of Birmingham. The survey will establish where otters, once hunted to the brink of extinction, have been making a surprising come-back.
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